Be very careful, then, how you live — not as unwise, but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. (Ephesians 5:15-17)
Dear Friends, These are troubling times for our beloved nation. The political and economic turmoil with which we are struggling threatens to destroy the unity that is essential to our very existence. The acrimony and rancor of public debate has reached a fever pitch, leaving little room for any consensus or compromise. There are still many of us who want to cling to the Judeo-Christian traditions and values upon which this country was founded.
Conversely, an ever-increasing number of people are dedicated to redefining our historical identity and redirecting our political purposes. Their goal is to conform the USA to an exclusively humanistic world view that promotes government control at the cost of civil and religious freedoms.
It seems to me that only the most cynical historians can deconstruct the fact that this nation was founded on basic biblical principles. While our forefathers took great care not to establish an official religion or state supported church, they nevertheless assumed that all authority came from God and that his Word should provide the primary basis for our governance.
Their absolute trust in God was matched by their general distrust in human government. They wanted maximum personal freedom and minimum governmental restraint. Unfortunately, that formula has eroded over time to the point that even the right to pray or quote Scripture in public can possibly be restricted because somebody might be offended by what they perceive to be “hate speech.”
Christian patriots are understandably angry, some to the point of potential violence. I confess that I have tended to be one of these. I need to remind myself daily that the anger of men does not produce the righteous life that God desires (James 1:20).
God’s people will always be faced with tribulation that we must overcome. The world just does not like us very much. It sees us as annoying and backward religious bigots who automatically resist any cultural progress. We insist on believing in god myths and moral codes that interfere with the agenda of the “enlightened” elitists who know what is best for the masses.
They don’t mind that we have strong religious convictions as long as we keep them to ourselves and out of the public debate. But that we cannot do. As Peter asked of the authorities in Jerusalem, “Should we obey God or man?” (Acts 5:29) We have been entrusted with the Gospel message and responsibility to fulfill the Great Commission to make disciples of all nations, teaching them to obey God (Matthew 28:19). We have a sacred commitment that supersedes any human decree, regardless of the consequences. For that, we will be persecuted, at some point and in some way. Jesus made that painfully clear.
Paul warns us to be very careful how we live. He, himself, learned that the hard way. You see, the corporate witness of the Church is not merely the purity of our religious dogma. Faith is not just a mere matter of intellectual assent to correct theological principles. Rather, it is a whole new way of life that we consistently demonstrate.
The standards are clear. Are we kind, peace-loving, generous, forgiving, and merciful? The Scriptures are full of creative “be-attitudes” that define the character of true believers. The early Church suffered persecution from the ruling authorities but nevertheless enjoyed deep respect from the local community.
The pronouncement of the coming Kingdom of God will always threaten worldly authority but also provides welcome hope to all those who suffer under it. Wise living can be defined as simply obeying the Word of God in every situation and circumstance. It is the discipline that comes out of a sincere love for our heavenly Father.
Our natural sinful instincts almost always produce the kind of foolishness that leads us to compromise our witness, either through self-centered carnality, or self-righteous hypocrisy. We cannot profess God’s ways to the world while we continue to live exactly like it does. We should live as those who must give an account to the Lord, himself.
Foolishness can also cause us to lash out at those who oppose us. Too often, our immediate reaction to persecution is to retaliate forcefully and with a vengeance that contradicts our credo of love. Forgiving and loving our enemies is central to our faith. That requires a lot of wise intention. There is simply no room for foolishness.
These are, indeed, the times that try men’s souls. The world is in serious crisis. It has been said that a crisis has two parts. First, there is danger. Undisciplined passion, distrust of others, and economic distress provide the kindling for a wildfire that could consume everything we have and everything we are. It is already hot and there seems to be no relief in sight.
Fortunately, a crisis also provides opportunity, a chance for creative resolve to displace the world’s turmoil with God’s peace. Paul encourages us to make the most of every opportunity. For what?
I think he is talking about exercising our commission to be messengers and ministers of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:16ff). As Christ’s ambassadors, representing the Kingdom of God, we entreat others in this present, crooked generation to be reconciled to God.
This responsibility requires an attitude change that contradicts our natural inclination to invite others to “go to hell” when they offend us. That, of course, would be foolish. We cannot represent God and ourselves at the same time. We must understand what the Lord’s will is if we are to represent him. We know that it is not his will that any should be lost (2 Peter 3:9). We know that God desires that all should come to a saving knowledge of him (1 Timothy 2:4). We know that he wants us to worship him by offering up ourselves as a living sacrifice to serve his purposes in the earth. (Romans 12:1).
Let us continue to encourage one another to live a peaceful life of love and service within the hostile environment that surrounds us. We are here in these days of evil to serve God and to save mankind, not to condemn the world. He who calls us also equips and sustains us through every trial and tribulation we might face. May we continue to trust in his unchanging grace, our solid rock in the midst of the shifting sand of human history. Amen.
[LeRoy Curtis is a graduate of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and Asbury Theological Seminary. He served four years as a U.S. Naval Officer after which he became a pastor, Bible professor, educator, author, and missionary living in E. Africa for eight years where he and his wife developed a curriculum of biblical studies for untrained pastors in rural Kenya. His passion for training young church leaders takes him to various parts of the U.S., Latin America, and Africa. He and Judy are currently residing in Carrollton, Georgia.]